Concern over premiums again a hot topic during webchat on MediShield Life

How high MediShield Life premiums will shoot up to was the hot topic at Monday night's webchat on changes to the health insurance scheme to cover everyone for life. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR
How high MediShield Life premiums will shoot up to was the hot topic at Monday night's webchat on changes to the health insurance scheme to cover everyone for life. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR

How high MediShield Life premiums will shoot up to was the hot topic at Monday night's webchat on changes to the health insurance scheme to cover everyone for life.

About 30 people took part in the 'live' Facebook chat organised by the MediShield Life Review Committee as part of its public consultation before the changes.

Several wanted a hint of how much they could expect to pay, but the two MediShield Life Review committee members taking part in the chat on the Reach Facebook page - Ms Janet Ang, managing director of IBM Singapore and Dr Tan See Leng, managing director of the Parkway Pantai Group - kept mum, saying the actuaries were still working out the numbers.

One participant, Mr David Choo suggested taxing the Medisave accounts of more affluent people, which included himself, to help the poor pay their premiums.

A way to do this, suggested another, would be to set up a "donation fund" for people who want to help others to pay into. Said participant Leow Peng Fei: "Government can set up Singapore Pools, why not CPF Pool?"

A third felt that increasing the premium rate as people aged would be a burden on policyholders, as they were likely to have less money as they got older.

There were also suggestions that MediShield Life should pay for all medical expenses, including preventative health screening, traditional Chinese medicine, and the treatment of chronic ailments.

One participant, Mr Richard Gan, said it was better use of health care funds to pay for prevention than cure. Another person taking part, Ms Michelle Tan agreed, and said authorities should be thinking "outside the box" about the results Singapore wants to achieve.

However, Ms Ang reminded participants that the insurance scheme is for big hospital bills, and not all medical treatments.

Nonetheless, another participant, Wong Yung Pine, urged the committee to "concentrate on having a healthy society" as many serious illnesses are preventable with lifestyle changes.

Continuing to press the issue, Ms Clarice Teo asked if it was possible or practical for the insurance to pay for basic health screening every two years.

Dr Tan replied if there were too many add-ons, premiums would go up, so the committee is trying "to balance this judiciously".

On whether the all inclusive policy of MediShield Life will be extended to the integrated plans - which cover people wanting hospital treatment as private patients - Ms Ang said the committee is in discussion with insurers regarding "premiums, loading, IP upgrades etc, for those with pre-existing diseases".

When Dr Tan asked for input on pre-funding, that is, paying higher premiums when young so premiums will not rise too much as people age, most thought it was a good idea.